We started the year with a clear goal in mind: our professional development (PD) revolving around technology would not be in isolation, it would be embedded and would serve as a modeling opportunity for teachers to see what meaningful technology integration looks like. We shifted away from standard technology training by carefully placing these pieces within applicable PDs that teachers already had to focus on as a part of our district’s strategic plan (curriculum, instruction, and assessment). While we did have district professional development days where we were able to embed technology integration practices into topics like formative assessment, our easiest and most-frequent vehicle for embedded PD came from taking advantage of opportunities like our staff meetings.
Before our pilot year started, we were able to easily identify that Schoology and Notability would be two huge pieces of our year. We knew that we needed to increase the competency and understanding teachers had with these two programs before full 1:1implementation the following year. So, how did we do this without having to hold half-day PDs on how to use the technology? A few months into the school year, we had our entire building join a Schoology course that held all of the items from our staff meetings (files, links, etc.). We had the teachers take pre assessments and post assessments in Schoology if there was professional development delivered in our staff meeting that day (ex., creating valid assessments). The files, which were posted in Schoology, we then had teachers import into Notability and use their iPads for note taking just as the students would. Here’s the cool thing about that:
- We were modeling the workflow process without ever having to explain it.
- Authentic learning was taking place because the focus was not on the technology, but was instead on the purpose and experience
I remember that when we had our first really paperless meeting(which I brought some paper copies to, in order to model printing out a few for students who like to have paper copies), we had no teachers ask for it. Keep in mind that we have about 75 certified teachers and additional support staff (social workers,admin, etc.), which brings our staff meetings to about 85-90 people, all at varying levels of tech skills. Not. ONE. Asked. For. Paper. They were willing to take a risk after being given only a 2 minute overview on how to take notes inNotability. Why were they willing to take this risk?
- They immediately applied everything we showed them in that quick 2 minute intro. (We didn’t front-end-load them with all of the “Wows” of the application or give them 20 steps to remember at a later time, plus examples, etc.)
- We only told them what they needed for that moment (writing tools, zoom in to draw, create a text box, add a page, scroll, and erase). They weren’t given a laundry list of things that they didn’t have a chance to apply, so they didn’t immediately feel like they would never be able to understand the tool.
- We did turn up their anxiety a bit by having them use it right in that moment without any preparation. We made some of them uncomfortable, but did not push them too far. They did not have the time to choose to shut down because they had to authentically apply it right in that moment.
- We planted 1 teacher at each table that had experience with the applications.
- We encouraged play, exploration, and sharing at the tables. If you learn a cool trick, share it! We wanted collaborative learning.
- Collaboration made it fun!
We continued to use Schoology to house staff meeting materials and encouraged Notability for recording information on those electronic documents throughout the year. Casually, we would insert new features of the programs (a discussion in Schoology one month, adding sticky notes into Notability for a jigsaw activity the next, etc.). Now that we had established this culture of play, exploration, and sharing, we were able to run these integration opportunities without any tutorial whatsoever.
As the year went on, we began to integrate other applications. Need to take a vote on the dress code at the staff meeting? Use Socrative. Having teachers read an article on the web about CCSS? Use Subtext and let them share their takeaways and questions as they read. Want to get staff to a web resource? Create a QR code and have them scan it. Slowly, our teachers were being exposed to the power of the tools that all of their students would have the following year.
Continuing the momentum, we introduced “App Attacks” at one of our last staff meetings. Because we were modeling so much, we wanted to make sure the connection to classroom application was concrete and was also inspiring idea generation. The term “App Attack” came from a teacher who was involved in the brainstorming of this idea. We had explained what “App Slams” and “Demo Slams” were, but were looking for a more expansive view so that we could include websites, apps, etc. and we wanted it to not be about the tool, but to be a mass brainstorming activity where the teachers shouted out what they could do with the tool. We wanted to use our collective powers to attack the tool and determine how many classroom applications we could generate…in 1 minute! So was born, the “App Attack”. After all of the staff members completed a Google Form with an image inserted in it about hallway expectations, we had a 30 second explanation of what this new “App Attack” was. Then, the timer was set, and the staff members began to shout ideas out. In one minute, we collected 16 classroom applications for using a Google Form with an image and we had more people who wanted to share, but the timer went off. Why was this strategy successful?
- The focus was on what they are already experts in: their content and their classrooms.
- It was unexpected. (Who gets to randomly yell out at staff meetings…or in life?)
- It created energy.
- It created a bit of good anxiety because staff wanted to get their ideas in before the time was up.
- It was an activity that focused on the collective knowledge of everyone in the room. One idea would spark another, and so on.
- It was fun!
Using the above-mentioned strategies for embedding PD into pre-existing meetings and professional development allowed us to create teacher buy in. We didn’t have to sell the value of what we were talking about because we created the value from the experience. We were showing, not telling and it had an impact.